College football returns to action Thursday night in Starkville where homestanding Mississippi State entertains Lou Holtz's magical Gamecocks at Scott Field. Last year's matchup produced a charmed South Carolina team, one which scored on a miracle late-game pass to propel itself onward and upward toward one of the most amazing seasons in college football history.
This week, however, look for Jackie Sherrill's weapons of mass destruction to come down hard on the highly inflated 'Cocks of Columbia. RBs Dontae Walker, Dicenzo Miller and WR Justin Jenkins may well put on a talent show to rival that of Ed Sullivan and the Beatles. MISSISSIPPI STATE 27, SOUTH CAROLINA 20.
The Spiders of Richmond almost wrapped up Al Groh's Virginia Cavaliers two weeks ago before succumbing to the more-than-a-little glorious score of 17-16. Vanderbilt has never managed to look very dignified in games like this, but if the Commodores do plan to make any kind of splash at all this season, they'd better start here. VANDERBILT 34, RICHMOND 13.
Two weeks ago, Ball State did everything right against Kentucky. The Cardinals out-rushed the 'Cats by 100 yards. The Red doubled the time of possession on the Blue. They didn't turn the ball over, while UK did. And they converted an impressive 45 percent of their first downs. Auburn won nine games doing those things last year. Still, Ball State somehow lost to Kentucky 28-20. Some credit must be given to the change at quarterback where freshman Shane Boyd took over for last season's Whopper snapper-catcher-thrower, Jared Lorenzen. Boyd, like so many new-age QBs, is known for the big play.
The Gators finally get real after side-stepping the Big Orange last weekend. This game marks three in a row against teams who have no business on Florida's football schedule. Despite the knowledge and skill of Wildcat Defensive Coordinator John Goodner and the return of talented linebacker Jamaal White to the UK lineup, this game should produce a UK disaster not unlike that against Louisville three weeks ago. FLORIDA 48, KENTUCKY 10.
A couple of weeks ago (seems like a couple of decades by now) we told you to not underestimate the Razorbacks against Tennessee and to watch out for Vandy to play the Tide to the wire as well. Both things happened. This week, don't worry about it, as Franchione has the green light from the SEC to exploit the slow Sows along the Razorback defensive front. The Pig coaching staff has been so alarmed that they have moved fullback Sacha Lancaster back there, part time, to bolster what could wind up being the team's defensive Achilles heel.
Arkansas likely has the best secondary in the West, but the front seven so far has been known for trying hard and playing a smidgen over their heads. Offensively, Arkansas needs a miracle cure for QB Robbie Hampton's shoulder. Without him, this is going to be a long and disappointing season in the Pig Pen.
Look for Tyler Watts, and the Bama defense, to finally make people like Eli, Kenny and Bubba (all 65,000 of him) real proud this Sair-di. Rowe Tahd, Rowe. ALABAMA 30, ARKANSAS 10.
Now we'll never know how the Auburn Tigers would have fared down on the Bayou in September of 2001. But then we'll never know how a lot of things would have happened had events been a little bit different on September 11. Putting all that aside, now, as we should, it's time to move forward to the Carrier Dome this Saturday night where youthful Auburn tries to ward off an experienced Syracuse football team on the world's flattest football field. Many a talented college football team has lost its innocence on that pad, including powerhouses Nebraska and Miami. UT escaped with the aid of an official's handkerchief during its National Championship season three years ago.
Thus far, in 2001, the Orangemen have lost only to Top 10 powers Georgia Tech and Tennessee, both on the road. They took Tech to the wire, and UT fans grumbled about the poor offensive showing the Vols put forth on opening day against a quick and strong 'Cuse defense. Defense at home is tough to beat in college football. The antidote is outstanding quarterback play. Let's hope AU Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone has redshirt freshman QB Jason Campbell ready to play his best. Auburn will need him, along with kicker Damon Duval, to win. AUBURN 16, Syracuse 13.